Let us talk about tour group challenges. Since last week’s post discussed Morocco and some of the benefits of group travel, I thought it only fair to discuss some of the less pleasurable aspects of traveling with a tour group. Knowing both sides can only help to make an informed decision about the kind of trip you want to take.
Tour group challenges in Ecuador
A couple of years ago, R and I jumped on a good deal to Ecuador. The catch: it was a group trip. Although a tour group is not our preferred way of travel, we had a really good time. However, there were a few individuals in our group who made the trip a little more challenging than it needed to be. The individuals listed below (names have been changed) represent the type of people or situations you may encounter while traveling with a group. These are tour group challenges at their finest.
Fred the pessimist
I am not sure I have ever met a more pessimistic person. I have certainly never met one who travels—they usually stay at home to complain about the world. But Fred was unique in his ability to travel the world and make everyone around him miserable. He was old and in poor health, which normally would not be that big of a deal. However, the trip description specifically said you needed to be in reasonably good shape and able to walk for several hours at a time. Evidently, Fred did not care. So our group progressed slower than planned. And honestly, I do not think anyone would have minded if he had at least been nice. But he was rude. And since we were on a group trip, there was no getting away from him or his piss-poor attitude.
Jim the scatterbrain
He was a nice enough fellow, but a bit scatterbrained. For whatever reason, Jim decided to take his fanny pack off when he used the public restroom and hang it on the back of the door. (I thought the whole point of a fanny pack was to keep your valuables on you while remaining hands free. Maybe he just liked the fashion statement he was making.) By the time he realized he forgot to put it back on, it was gone…along with his passport. The group then got to spend a good portion of the day driving around looking for an open police station to report the situation (there was some sort of festival going on and most were closed or empty). By the time we found one, we had very little time for lunch and shopping at our next stop. My travel journal had this to say about that: “I would have liked more time to explore. Oh well, one of the downsides to tour groups.” By the way, everything worked out okay for Jim. He headed back to the capital with his police report and returned a couple of days later with a brand new passport.
Peter the not-quite-trustworthy tour guide
He was our fearless leader and for the most part, he did a good job. However, he did a couple of things that seemed a little fishy. Several meals were supposed to be “on our own,” according to the itinerary. But instead of going somewhere with dining options, our leader took us to one restaurant and then told us about the special. We were not given a menu to pick from and no price was mentioned on the special. This happened on more than one occasion. Also, we stopped once to let a nice young lady on board. She sang to us and then walked down the aisle selling scarves. Luckily, I really like scarves and had no problem buying one. But it was still an uncomfortable experience that was forced on us by the very person who could (and should) have prevented it.
Bethany the tardy tourist
She is an adventurous soul and was fun to talk to. She was also easily distracted and a little self-centered. Bethany did not wear a watch and she was always late, which made the group late. It was quite frustrating. This type of person is actually pretty common on group trips. There always seems to be at least one person who, whether intentional or not, is not very considerate of the group’s time and the schedule they are trying to keep. Sitting on a bus, waiting for others who are late ranks up there with the most annoying tour group challenges.
Edward the careless driver
He was our bus driver and a very funny guy. But before our trip even began on day one, Edward got into a little car accident with the bus. So we had to wait. And wait. If the bus wasn’t moving, no one was moving. When it comes to tour group challenges, you are on their timetable and there is little-to-no flexibility. Having your own personal transportation is convenient…until it is not. It is a perk…until it is an inconvenience.
Now please do not think that we did not have a good time in Ecuador. Some of our funniest moments traveling happened on that trip and we laugh quite often about them. We also met some really great people on that trip. However, there were just a few moments, and individuals, that I could have done without. They make me really consider tour group challenges and whether group travel is the way I want to see a particular place.
Group travel is a worthy option. You can often find good deals and planning is a breeze. But there will be downsides and potentially difficult people. However, if you go into a group trip knowing that, you can still have a great time.